by Maureen McCabe, Guest Contributor
The oldest form of marketing – word-of mouth — is also the most basic form of marketing and it takes place, simply, from one human being to another.
With today’s gadgets and data harvesting, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics, the things that transcend technology, fads, and demographic cohorts. Word-of-mouth belongs, for instance, as part of any marketing campaign, including online marketing.
What’s different with word-of-mouth online is that it’s often no longer just one human being to another. Instead, it’s one human being to many. The Internet amplifies word-of-mouth, making it an even more powerful tool to build your brand and draw in new prospects.
Here are seven ways to use word-of-mouth marketing online for your business.
Customer reviews are the most basic of the basic and entail people telling other people what they think of your product or service.
Whether your target market is consumers or businesses, they are checking you out online well before they contact you. It’s no wonder that most small businesses hope to get good reviews on places like Yelp, Amazon, or TripAdvisor.
But you don’t have to hope. You can prompt people to leave reviews.
There are two ways to encourage reviews: a blanket approach or a targeted approach.
A blanket approach means asking all your customers to post a review. An example of this is sending all customers a follow-up email with links to post their reviews. Another example is to have a screen open on your (physical) counter for visitors to your hotel or attraction to post a review right then and there.
A targeted approach means identifying your most satisfied customers and prompting them to post a review. One way to do this is to respond to positive feedback from a client by sending links to request they post a review.
As you might expect, a blanket approach will result in a lot more reviews, making your business look very popular. This might be more important in some consumer sectors, especially when the review includes a rating. An average 4.5 stars out of 5 is more impressive with 10,000 responses than with 100 responses.
On the other hand, carefully selecting your most satisfied customers results in a higher average rating and more thoughtful reviews. This is almost always better for business-to-business niches and also in many consumer markets.
The most convincing reviews are the ones where somebody takes the time to single out how you went out of your way to make their day. Now that’s fabulous word-of-mouth marketing at its finest.
If your website isn’t teeming with testimonials, you are missing out.
For your prospects, testimonials help them find “reviews” without having to leave your website. It appeals to the lazy in them. You still need reviews, but testimonials help some people decide to do business with you without seeking reviews elsewhere.
For you, it helps control the message. You can post only the very best testimonials to make your business glow, or the ones targeting your favorite service or product to sell.
In fact, your testimonials are possibly the best sales tool you’ll ever have. Think of the credibility gap between you saying your services are the best thing since sliced bread and one of your clients raving about your quality or expertise.
You’ll see my website marketing page has a different testimonial than my brand marketing page. As people move around the website, they notice that a lot of different small businesses are very satisfied with my services. That is powerful word-of-mouth marketing.
Selfies are a great marketing tool, especially if you sell a product or activity mostly to consumers. If you sell a service, selfies might be harder to do and if you sell to businesses, selfies might not be effective at impressing potential customers.
But, if selfies are up your lane, give your customers something visual to use as a background. If you run an attraction or an activity, you can even create a “selfie corner” to entice people to shoot selfies. Or you might set up costumes or accessories for people to use in their selfies.
Anything you do to help your customers create good visuals for a selfie increases the number of selfies people take and share online. Go ahead and try to inspire some selfie fun to tease interest and create buzz for your business!
4- Social Media for Word-of Mouth Marketing Reach
Never in the history of history has there been a better opportunity for word-of-mouth marketing than now, thanks to social media. For example, selfies are useful only when there’s somewhere to post them. Voila social media!
If you do customer service well, do it where people can see. Make it easy for people to reach out on social media. Respond to them on social media. Make them feel satisfaction on social media, where everybody can see.
When people get good customer service, they tend to share that information. That’s a huge part of word-of-mouth marketing. And if they happen to be on social media when they get satisfaction, it’s a no-brainer that they’ll be more likely to share their feeling with their hundreds or thousands of connections rather than just with family.
If you want a target audience to hear about you, there’s nothing like a forum. This is a great venue if you want to reach and sell to a specific niche of business or to individuals with a specific hobby or interest.
Build relationships with the most active users on the forum you select. Try being helpful. Try being an authentic fellow user. Be with people online like you would be in a real-world setting. At some point, find a way to offer a sample or give them a tour, or in some other way help them to discover your services. Then, empower them to refer to you whenever it’s appropriate in forum discussions.
There is no better word-of-mouth marketing than prompting other people to bring you customers. This works in almost any niche, business or consumer.
Prompting satisfied customers to refer a friend or colleague isn’t that hard. Just ask them who else they know who could benefit from your product or service. Remember that you are not asking for a favor, you are just asking for sharing of information. Everyone can decide what to do with that information.
Any of these approaches can be supercharged with the right incentive. Offering future discounts or special members-only benefits for writing a review or posting a selfie to social media can boost your success rate.
Referring a friend is all the easier with incentives and definitely a word-of-mouth marketing tactic. You can offer both your client and their friend free snacks, drinks, or swag.
Or you can offer a discount for a referral, like $200 off each of your next month’s cleaning, rent, or whatever you want to offer.
Or give a service upgrade, or membership benefit.
Incentives work for both consumers and businesses. With businesses, the incentives can be given to the business or to the decision-maker. Just be careful not to place the decision-maker in a conflict-of-interest situation – the incentive to an individual should be more symbolic, making them feel good about buying from you rather than offering a real material advantage.
How do You Plan to Harness Word-of-Mouth Marketing?
It’s very simple. People listen to other people. If you get some people talking, some others will hear.
The goal of word-of-mouth marketing is to get people talking about you, your company, your products, and your services. Not just talking, but raving.
This is your homework. Look at the marketing you are doing now and figure out how you can add a word-of-mouth component. Or consider a whole new activity to spur word-of-mouth about your business. Whatever it takes, be sure to get the word out!
Maureen McCabe is a small business marketing consultant with a wide range of marketing skills and expertise. Maureen helps many small organizations across North America develop effective marketing plans to grow their business. Find more here: https://www.mccabemarketing.ca/